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Grading Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama’s regular season debut vs. Mavericks

Here’s a look at how the No. 1 pick fared in his first regular season game.

Dallas Mavericks v San Antonio Spurs
Victor Wembanyama of the San Antonio Spurs shoots the ball during the second quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at Frost Bank Center on October 25, 2023 in San Antonio, Texas.
Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

San Antonio Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama made his regular season debut Wednesday against the Dallas Mavericks in front of a raucous home crowd, with fans hoping the No. 1 pick from the 2023 NBA Draft would dazzle. Here’s a breakdown of what Wembanayama did in the 126-119 loss and what it means for his props and futures odds going forward.

Victor Wembanyama Stats vs. Mavericks

23 minutes: 15 points, 2 assists, 5 rebounds, 1 block, 5 turnovers, 5 personal fouls, 6-9 FG, 3-5 3P

Things started off quite well for Wembanyama with a great weakside block helping off his man. When you are 7-4, you can do this without much effort.

The rookie took a few triples early in the game, which was something he didn’t do at a high level a year ago with Metropolitans 92. He missed the first attempt but made the second one. The Spurs have worked wonders adjusting players’ shots and making them better. It seems like they’re on their way to doing that with Wembanyama too.

Things took a bad turn for Wembanyama after that. He struggled in space defensively, picking up some cheap fouls while trying to defend quicker players. He had a bad offensive foul called when he tried to get post position on Grant Williams. He picked up a foul about 10 seconds after being on the floor, and this happened when he already had four fouls.

However, Wembanyama did make a string of good plays late in the fourth quarter despite having with five fouls, including hitting his third triple. He was impacting shots defensively and playing with good energy to keep the Spurs in the contest.

Overall Grade: C+

If you take the final stretch of the game out, this would be nearing C- or D+ territory. There was so much hype, perhaps too much, around this game for Wembanyama based on what he had done in the Summer League and preseason. The atmosphere was electric too. And for most of the game, Wembanyama was in foul trouble.

Offensively, Wembanyama took a lot of jump shots and largely stayed out of the paint. He wasn’t able to gain position on Williams, who routinely checked him at the top of the key whenever Wembanyama tried to venture into the paint. That’s something the rookie needs to adjust to. The Spurs seemed to look to avoid putting their rookie in spots where he’d take contact. He didn’t run a single pick-and-roll as the man setting the screen, and he hardly ventured deeper into the paint in an attempt to gain position. He didn’t cut much either, although the Spurs were doing a good job of that as a team. The shot looked decent, though, and seeing some early triples go in likely gave Wembanyama the confidence to keep firing.

The Mavericks are an interesting team to defend against because they often spread things out given their plethora of shooting options. Wembanyama struggled to defend in space at times, and we really didn’t get a chance to see how he would hold up in post defense because Dallas didn’t give him that opportunity. He was able to grab some rebounds and contested shots as a help defender, so that was a positive.

Betting Impact

Wembanyama is listed at +9000 to win league MVP at DraftKings Sportsbook. That number is going to increase after this performance, because there’s no way he’s coming close to the honor if he keeps playing like that. His Defensive Player of the Year odds were +2000 to begin the season, and that number will also take a hit. Picking up five fouls in your debut doesn’t help your case much as an elite defender. It feels like Rookie of the Year is the only award Wembanyama will be getting.

As far as player props go, the books will likely make some adjustments on Wembanyama’s points and rebound totals. Foul trouble isn’t going to be a thing every game, but the rookie will need to play more minutes to consistently top his prop lines. And he’s not going to play if he’s picking up cheap fouls. I’d expect a slight correction going forward but not to the point where you’d be betting the over every time.

For the Spurs overall, it seems like they’ll be in games. Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell look great as they continue to develop, while Wembanyama should feel the game out more as the season progresses. This is still a team hoping to keep its rebuild going and head coach Gregg Popovich might do some load management things with Wembanyama, so the under is probably still the move on the win total. However, betting on San Antonio to cover early in the season on some larger spreads might not be a bad idea.